After not fumbling through four collegiate years at Toledo, it appeared the New England Patriots had the answer for Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, as they forced him to fumble on his first career NFL carry in 2017.
But that certainly was not the case, as the Chiefs’ young back rebounded to shred the New England defense that game, and again proved the be a matchup nightmare in the team’s Week 6 matchup this season.
When the two sides meet on Sunday for the AFC Championship Game, however, New England will not have to worry about Kansas City playmaker.
After TMZ published a surveillance video back in November, which showed Hunt shoving and kicking a woman, the Chiefs released their star running back. Hunt immediately found himself on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List, and likely will sit out more than the six games he was suspended for violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
In Hunt’s two career games against New England, the young back piled up 431 yards of total offense on just 37 touches, while scoring four times. For those keeping track, that’s 11.64 yards per touch. Hunt’s damage didn’t just come on the ground, where he averaged 8.4 yards per carry, but he consistently hurt the Patriots through the air as well, totaling 203 yards and three touchdowns on 10 receptions.
Game planning for the electric Patrick Mahomes will now be much easier for Bill Belichick and co, as they don’t have to worry about Hunt in the backfield.
Without Hunt, New England will now have to prepare for fifth year back Damien Williams, who has started five games since Hunt’s removal, including Kansas City’s AFC Divisional matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year old has been solid in replacing the 2018 Pro Bowler, proving his value in both the passing and running game.
Williams has run for over 100 yards in three of his five starts, including last week’s playoff matchup, while adding 28 receptions out of the backfield. He has scored a total of seven touchdowns in six games, at least one every game.
While Williams is still an extremely capable back, he is no Hunt. But New England knows that whatever running back is in the backfield, the Kansas City offense is as dangerous as any. “You can’t really tell,” Dont’a Hightower told reporters Tuesday when asked if the Chiefs offense looks different without Hunt. “Their offense is still rolling with 30, 40 points.”
The Patriots run defense has been quite vulnerable all season, but was able to limit Melvin Gordon and the Los Angeles Chargers to just 19 yards on 10 carries. They’ll see if they can carry the same success over to Arrowhead for the AFC Championship game next Sunday without having to worry about Hunt.